In Memoriam Archive

John D. Arras, PhD


John D. Arras died on March 9, 2015. He was the Porterfield Professor of Biomedical Ethics and Professor of Philosophy and Public Health Sciences at the University of Virginia, where he directed the undergraduate bioethics program.

Arras was a leader in the field of bioethics. He was a member of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues and the ethics committee of the March of Dimes. He was a founding member of the ethics committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He was also a Fellow of The Hastings Center and a former member of its board of directors.

Arras's research interests were wide-ranging. In numerous articles on bioethics, Arras took on diverse topics, including rationing vaccines during an Avian flu epidemic, ethical and social issues in high-tech home care, fair benefits in international research, ethical principles in the care of imperiled newborns, human assisted reproduction, and prenatal screening for disabilities. On his personal website, he wrote: "My research falls into two broad categories: 1) reflections on method in practical ethics, including varieties of 'principlism,' moral theory, case-based reasoning, narrative, pragmatism, human rights, etc.; and 2) more occasional topics of current ethical controversy, such as physician-assisted suicide, research ethics, and public health."

He is the author or editor of several books, most recently The Routledge Companion to Bioethics, edited with Elizabeth Fenton and Rebecca Kulka (Routledge 2014) and Ethical Issues in Modern Medicine, written with Bonnie Steinbock and Alex John London (McGraw-Hill 2012). In addition, he has two books forthcoming from Oxford University Press: Emergency Ethics: Public Health Preparedness and Response," edited with Bruce Jennings, Drue Barrett, and Barbara Ellis; and a book tentatively titled The Ways We Reason Now: Skeptical Reflections on Method in Bioethics."

In 2005 he was honored with the University of Virginia Alumni Association's Distinguished Professor Award for teaching, research, and contributions to student life and in 2006 he received an Outstanding Faculty Award from the Virginia State Council of Higher Education. His role as a teacher was extremely important to him. As he said in the spring 2014 University of Virginia Magazine:

"I see myself as being in the business of helping students become who they are going to become. I love being around young people, prodding them, arguing with them. There is a Socratic element to it, an intense connection between the teacher and student. It's a kind of secular blessedness, to love what you do over a very long stretch of time. That's as good as it gets."

Sherwin Nuland, MD


We note the passing, this summer, of Dr. Sherwin Nuland, professor of surgery at Yale, medical ethicist, historian and brilliant author.

Shep, as he was known to all his many friends and colleagues, had a narrative gift that probed the deepest recesses of the human body and the human heart. He was the author of How We Die, which could be said to have helped launch the right to die and palliative care movement in the 1990’s; a deeply honest autobiography Lost in America, and other works in medical history, notably Doctors, The Biography of Medicine. His pieces in American Scholar on medicine were gems of clarity and insight. The elegance of his prose was only matched by the fierceness of his approach to complexity and the human condition. He brought art and beauty to all facets of medicine, whether he was writing about Ignaz Semmelweis or death and was, perhaps, the greatest physician writer of his generation.

Shep was a long-time board member of the Hastings Center and teacher of surgery and medical ethics at Yale. The Sumer Bioethics Institute at Yale University was named last summer to honor his memory and legacy. Let’s take a moment to remember our dear friend and colleague.

Marjorie Jean Spurrier Sirridge, MD


Marjorie Jean Spurrier Sirridge, MD, 92, died July 30, 2014. Sirridge was a cornerstone of the UMKC School of Medicine from its inception, serving as a founding docent and later as the School's dean. Combined with her deep appreciation for medical humanities, Sirridge brought an approach to medicine that emphasized empathy and compassion for the patient, characteristics that are bedrocks of the School's curriculum.

Sirridge and her husband, William, were two of the three founding docents for the new School of Medicine when it opened in 1971. Sirridge spent the remainder of her career in numerous roles at the School.

She was highly active in health-related activities at all levels and served on many community-related boards. Among a long list of medical-related honors, Sirridge received the Alma Dea Morani, MD Renaissance Woman Award from the Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine in 2010. Her civic efforts were also recognized with many awards and honors including the Outstanding Kansas Citation and the Kansas City Career Woman of the Year awards.


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